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Live your Thanksgiving! Open the Door of Your Heart to Gratitude!
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson on:

 “Thanksgiving”
For Thanksgiving Week and Day, 2021

 By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. of Godfrey, IL
craig.ghislincs@icloud.com / (630) 830-8683; cell/text )630) 234-3987


Would you say you were a grateful person?

Earlier in my life, although I would be grateful for specific things and events, I used to have a hard time being grateful on a daily basis. During my twenty plus years as a chaplain in the county jail, mental health facilities, and convalescent homes, we were expected to give monthly reports of our activities including fruitage. As the one in charge, I received fruitage reports from other volunteers, and was always surprised at the tiny things they were grateful for. My reports were usually focused on what I considered to be the more impressive demonstrations. Little by little, I realized that reserving my gratitude for the big things was limiting my recognition of the ever-presence of God’s goodness. I saw that these other volunteers had an overall outlook of gratitude, and I was missing out on the fullness of God’s glory. So, I began to more consciously practice gratitude.

While this may seem obvious to many, as noted in the Golden Text (Ps. 107:8) the psalmist strongly emphasizes the importance of consistent, conscious gratitude.

The Responsive Reading (Ps. 106:48; 107:1, 9, 15, 20-22, 31, 35-38 (to;) 43) expands on the wide scope of things to be grateful for. More than a catalogue of blessings, the psalmist’s verses indicate that there is no condition outside of God’s control. Weariness, hunger, captivity, sickness, danger, famine, drought—every potential human need, is met through divine Love, and we ought to be grateful for it.

Theologian Adam Clarke (c1760-1832) elaborates on the Psalm’s closing verse:

He that is wise, he that fears God, and regards the operation of his hand will observe-lay up and keep, these things. He will hide them in his heart, …. He will encourage himself in the Lord, because he finds that he is a never-failing spring of goodness to the righteous.


Section 1: What More Could We Want?

In my youth, I think one of the reasons I was “gratitude challenged” was that I tended to imagine I was someplace other than where I was. As a child and adolescent, I rarely lived in the moment. I would regularly imagine I was someone famous. I was so busy imagining that I was someone else, that I really wasn’t present in the moment. How could I be grateful for present good, if I was living much of my life in a fantasy?

I suppose I’m not the only one who’s had trouble with gratitude. Perhaps that’s one reason the psalmist so often reminded the Children of Israel to practice thankfulness and praise. The psalmist reminds us that God is responsible for every good gift we can imagine, and is taking care of all creation every moment (citation B1/Ps. 147:7-9, 14, 15). It’s notable that young and old alike are reminded to praise God (cit. B2/Ps. 148:12, 13). The young are often dreaming about the future, or so busy with what they’re doing, that they forget to be grateful. Older people may be either worrying about the future, or lamenting lost opportunities. It really doesn’t matter what season of life we are in, there is always something that tries to obstruct our recognition God’s goodness.

But, the psalmist assures us “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord” (cit. B4/Ps. 92:1, 2, 4). Thankfulness and praise heightens our awareness of God’s goodness, and opens our eyes to new possibilities. The prophet Isaiah modeled the active recognition of God’s “lovingkindnesses,” and saw the inestimable value of realizing we are God’s children (cit. B5/Isa. 63:7, 16 2nd thou, 19 (to ;)).

Mary Baker Eddy agrees whole-heartedly. She writes: “What is gratitude but a powerful camera obscura, a thing focusing light where love, memory, and all within the human heart is present to manifest light” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 164:10).

Gratitude acknowledges the present good [and actually outlaws blindness to it]. What more can we ask for when we fully acknowledge that God is Love itself? (cit. S1/6:17-18). Last spring I was walking in a nature preserve that was blooming with life and beauty. It occurred to me that the trees and plants were simply being what God made them to be, and God was furnishing everything they needed to fulfill their purpose. That simple thought brought me a great deal of comfort. As the sunlight impartially shines on all that it touches, so does God’s loving care furnish each of us with all we need (cit. S2/516:12-19, 21).

The question is, “Are we grateful for it?” If so, how do we show it? (cit. S3/3:22). Christians have a special calling to be grateful. They are awake to blessings others don’t notice. They’re taught to seek beyond materialism, and look deep into the spiritual blessings that remain impervious to changing human conditions (cit. S5/15:25-30). We learn that lip-service isn’t enough. True gratitude is a practice.


Section 2: Half Full? Or, Half Empty?

Despite the fact that the Scriptures promise abundant blessings—fullness, satisfaction and plenty (cit. B6/Joel 2:21 be, 24, 26), the Children of Israel had a habit of complaining. One would think that upon being liberated from slavery the people would rejoice, yet, they murmured against Moses and Aaron (cit. B8/Exodus 16:2-4, 6, 7, 8, 11-15 35).
After several hundred years of slavery, they had become accustomed to having their basic needs provided. Although they had freedom in the wilderness, they complained about the lack of food, and wished they were back in slavery. When enslaved, they were used to looking to their captors for sustenance, and in the wilderness they began relying on Moses and Aaron for their needs.

Their true need was to learn to rely on God, and be grateful for the good they had. Why, after 400 years of slavery, did they complain when they were free? We could say that the Children of Israel were “glass half empty” people.  The disciples had that challenge as well. They doubted their own healing ability, they were convinced that they would never be able to feed the multitudes. They were often afraid of weather conditions, as well as their status in the eyes of the authorities, and they were slow to accept the resurrection. In short, they often had a limited point of view despite the numerous remarkable demonstrations Jesus had shown them of God’s power.

In this season of thanksgiving, take a few minutes to tune up your outlook on gratitude.
Do you find yourself longing for the “flesh pots” of material living?
Do you tend to lean toward the negative view?
Or, do you maintain hope and expectancy despite the circumstances?

If we understand that “man is sustained by God,” (cit. S6/530:5-7) we will find we have nothing to murmur about. Everybody gets everything they need. In times when our situation looks bad, and answers aren’t forthcoming, do we tend become impatient, and feel that we have to do something to kick-start the recovery process? Our textbook cautions us not to “interfere with God’s government by thrusting in laws of erring human concepts” (cit. S9/62:22). We simply have to trust God to know what He’s doing, and let it be.

Mary Baker Eddy didn’t complain or fret. She was confident that eventually, everyone would understand God’s supreme control (cit. S10/242:3-5). Our course is to follow her example, and learn to “apprehend the nature of God” (cit. S11/140:7-12). How well, are you doing in that regard?


Section 3: Proof in Healing

While it’s one thing to forget to be grateful for little blessings, ingratitude for the larger blessings seems hard to comprehend. Yet for nine of the ten lepers whom Jesus cleansed, that was exactly the case (cit. B12/Luke 17:12-19). In The Bridgeway Bible Commentary Donald C. Flemming, points out that Jesus “…sent them to the priest as the Jewish law required, but none of the Jews in the group returned to give him thanks. The only one who thanked him was a foreigner.” He also noted that the Children of Israel were quite used to having a comparatively favorable track record of being blessed by God. Whereas, for the foreigner, experiencing the healing power of God was something new.

It has been suggested by modern theologians that many Christians in the “First World” have also become very comfortable. They feel that they’re entitled to better treatment, better service, better health, and better living conditions than others, and are therefore more apt to forget to be grateful. If every day is sunny, you may be inclined to take it for granted. Are we so used to things going well that we fail to recognize even the larger blessings? None of us would knowingly do so, but it’s a question worth examining. If we fail to recognize God as the source of our blessings, we are liable to fall into the trap of thinking it’s our own cleverness and resilience that is responsible for our comforts. Rather than being swept up in our own importance, stature, and constitution, we need to be reminded to pause, and acknowledge where our blessings really come from.

In this section the citations from Science and Health remind us that every human challenge is overcome through the power of God. Spirit is constantly blessing man “but man cannot ‘tell whence it cometh’” (cit. S14/78:28). In Christian Science we learn that applying our understanding of God to our challenges brings healing results (cit. S15/342:21-26). These are the same truths Jesus taught and demonstrated (cit. S16/316:7).

With such an abundance of healing evidence how can we not be grateful? The Discoverer of Christian Science writes, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (cit. S18/4:3-16). She goes on to say the best way to be grateful is to embody the precepts Jesus taught. Just as we show our gratitude for a gift by using it, we show our gratitude to God by following the commandments. “Outward worship” isn’t enough. We have to embody the desire to be good.


Section 4: Transformative Gratitude

For the apostle Paul, two of the major attributes of a Christian are love and thankfulness. In fact, without these he felt we could hardly call ourselves Christians. In his letter to the Colossians (see cit. B14/Col. 3:4, 12, 14, 15), he emphasizes that when the Christ enters into our lives, our lives correspondingly manifest Christlikeness. The Bridgeway Bible Commentary, points out that as Christ becomes manifested in us, we exchange all our old habitual behaviors and put on new ones. He writes:

“Believers should put off old sinful habits as they would put off dirty clothes. They should put on new good habits as they would put on fresh clean clothes. They should have a new attitude, which thinks of others before thinking of self. It is as if the new ‘clothes’ they have just put on are bound together by love, so that their appearance is one of genuine beauty and completeness.”

One of those bad habits, is forgetting to be grateful, which amounts to taking God for granted. The theme of replacing bad habits is continued in Ephesians (cit. B15/Eph. 5:2, 18-20). In context, the Ephesians are being encouraged to exchange their habit of filling themselves with wine, for filling themselves with the Spirit. Additionally, rather than going through the motions of singing hymns and praise, they’re reminded to go beyond perfunctorily repeating the words to really connecting with their meaning and feeling heartfelt thanks.

Lastly, the letter to the Hebrews (cit. B16/Heb. 13:15, 25), points out that our praise and thanks should be continual, not only in good times. In the previous section, Science and Health tells us what we most need is the “prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace,” (cit. S18/4:3-16) and we’re reminded of that again in this passage from Hebrews.

In the Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon, the definition of Xaris, (the Greek word for grace), is expanded to include the doer and the receiver. On the part of the Doer, grace includes kindness and goodwill, and on the part of the Receiver of that good will, it includes thankfulness and gratitude.

Christians have always been expected to freely share the truths they learn through living, healing, and teaching. The Discoverer of Christian Science expected the same for her students (cit. S20/570:14-18, 23-24). Gratitude opens the door and allows the space for Christ to be manifested in our lives (cit. S22/325:10-15). Once that happens, we find ourselves in resonance with Christ, and we reflect the Christ presence as God’s image.

This Lesson closes with our textbook echoing the Bible citations with the call for “spiritual living and blessedness” (cit. S23/264:24-31). Gratitude opens the door to the Christ, and the Christ transforms us. Being transformed, we behold the glories of God’s creation.

If you have been neglecting gratitude in your life, may you begin the practice right now. Open the door and allow the Christ into your heart. If you are one of those who are already filled with gratitude, may your practice continue to expand your oneness with Christ. And may we all be alive to the glorious goodness of God’s grace in our lives and resonate together in hymns of praise! Amen.

 

 

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